Where and when: The White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DJ until 23 July 2022 at 7.30pm (Tues-Sat).
What it’s all about… As they career towards their forties Max and Frances Davidson, a chaotic couple from Bethnal Green, have reached crisis point. Frances, a creative weaver, is convinced (wrongly) that she has MS and is also deeply troubled by a large blue square which keeps involuntarily intruding into her work.
Meanwhile her husband Max, a manic, unbalanced architect, finds respite in a panoply of prescription drugs, washed down with unhealthy amounts of vintage Armagnac. Max is also obsessed with ‘New Age’ writings such as Theosophy – a form of philosophical or religious thought based on a mystical insight.
From his academic readings he comes to realise that he is a direct descendant of the biblical King David of Israel and Judea and that he is on earth with a special mission to build the Third Temple of Jerusalem… in Glastonbury.
Into this troubled household comes Sareen, a young Armenian refugee with shamanistic powers and ambitions to become… an architect!
You’ll like it if… The play is a dark comedy. You will laugh. You will think about the ‘human condition’. You will find some of it absurd because life is a little weird and sometimes the more we think the more confusing and complicated life becomes.
The original title for the play was That Other Thing and it came from a feature article writer Peter Hamilton read in the Daily Telegraph about 15 years ago. In the article a nun at a convent in Wales was interviewed about how she had found her vocation. She was a very-well educated middle-class Englishwoman who had read English at Oxford, where, she commented, she had enjoyed life “to the full. But there was always this other thing”. This is what first caught Peter’s attention because this is what it was like, the religious awareness. It’s something there at the back of the mind all the time, lurking in the shadows and you know it’s going to come and get you one of these days.
Also, one day Peter was listening to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4, and there was an interview with a young black Afro-British woman who was a creative weaver. She had been born and brought up in south London but her ethnic origin was East African (he thinks it might have been Masai). She described how, on graduating from Camberwell Art School, her weaving had gone well for a while, but then inspiration dried. After some striving, she eventually revived her work by returning to her African roots and the tradition of weaving tribal history and stories.
This also struck a note with Peter: creativity flourishes from a connection to deep roots; it’s not something to be endlessly dredged up from the individual. And about this time he met a painter who lived in a terraced cottage in Bethnal Green, which he had restored himself and done a very good job. Homes always draw Peter; the idea of restoring old buildings like mills and dovecotes, warehouses and small castles and living in them.
Peter had also spent quite a few years reading ‘New Age’ and other religious literature: Alice A Bailey, who first coined the phrase ‘New Age’, Theosophy, Gurdjieff and a rather sinister book called Holy Blood/Holy Grail, as well as The Bhagavad Gita, Confessions of St Augustine (“Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee”).
You should see it because… In a nutshell, we would like people to go and see Blue because, in all the current madness and violence of the world, we hope that it might remind them of the sureness and eternal stability of the spiritual realm, that God is on our side, that we are all on a great journey of souls, and that, as it says in the GITA: “Whenever there is a withering of the Law and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself.”
Anything else we should know… A first-class cast will feature in the playwright’s fifth collaboration with director Ken McClymont: Max Davidson (Tom Greaves), Stephen Omer (George), Julia Tarnoky (Megan), Emma Stannard (Frances) and Lara Ciulli (Sareen).